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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Deaths Saudi officers as Houthi rebels in Yemen attack Saudi border

Houthi rebels in Yemen have fired a mortar round at a Saudi Arabian border post, killing three Saudi officers and wounding two others, Saudi Arabia's Defence Ministry says.
A statement from the ministry on Saturday said that the incident took place the previous day in the Saudi border province of Najran.
The Saudi forces responded with gunfire, the statement said.
The ministry statement also said that since its campaign against the Houthis began last month, 500 Houthi fighters had been killed in clashes along the border.
Earlier this month, three Saudi border guards were killed in separate fighting with the Houthis.
Clashes in Aden
Meanwhile, in Aden, more than two dozen fighters and civilians died in fighting between Houthi rebels and gunmen loyal to President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, as the Saudi-led coalition intensified its air strikes in and around Yemen's capital Sanaa.
The coalition said that it was targeting suspected weapons storage sites used by the Houthis.
The air raids, which hit the Defence Ministry and facilities including al-Hafa military camp, lasted for several hours, Sanaa residents told the Reuters news agency.
The Republican Guard was also targeted in the 17th straight day of coalition air strikes on the country.
The strikes came after fierce clashes in Aden killed at least 25 people, Agence France-Presse news agency reported.
Despite the fighting, planes carrying medical aid desperately needed by civilians have finally been able to land for the first time since the air strikes began more than two weeks ago.

"My message to people is that the Cold War is over." Obama and Castro herald 'turning point' in US-Cuba ties


The presidents of the US and Cuba have met in Panama City, marking a potential turning point in US relations with Cuba and the region.
Barack Obama said after his meeting on Saturday with Raul Castro that the discussions had been "candid and fruitful", and that a strong majority of citizens in both Cuba and the US would back warmer relations.
"I think our ability to engage, to open up commerce and travel and people to people exchanges is ultimately going to be good for Cuban people," Obama said at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City.
"My message to people is that the Cold War is over."
Obama also said while relations would improve, that did not mean that there were not divisions between the two countries on sensitive issues such as human rights.
Castro had earlier told Obama that he was ready to discuss these issues, saying: "Everything can be on the table".
But Castro also cautioned that the two countries have "agreed to disagree" on some concerns.
"We are willing to discuss everything but we have to be patient," he said earlier

During a roundtable summit with other leaders of the American hemisphere earlier, Castro had praised Obama as "an honest man".
Castro said "every US president before him is to blame" for making Cuba suffer under the US blockade.
A normalisation of relations has seemed unthinkable to both Cubans and Americans for generations.
Al Jazeera's Latin America Editor Lucia Newman, reporting from Panama City, said Obama's comments did not mean that there were not divisions between the two countries.
She said Obama had not gone as far as announcing Cuba's removal from a US list of state sponsors of terrorism, as was widely expected, a move that would remove a major impediment in establishing diplomatic ties between Havana and Washington.
She quoted a seasoned political analyst with close contacts in both Washington and Havana as saying: "There must be something that the United States still wants that it is not getting, very likely related to access by US diplomats in Cuba to dissidents and other members of civil once embassies are opened,"
Our correspondent also said that Obama still had to deal with the US government embargo against Cuba and another thorny issue was Guantanamo Bay, the controversial US military prison which Cuba regarded as occupied territory.
Thawing of relations
Observers at the Summit of the Americas had still been surprised at the thawing of relations.
"Who would have guessed that of all people, President Raul Castro would sound almost conciliatory, almost like the new best friend of Barack Obama," they told Al Jazeera's Newman.
She said the meeting represented an important foreign policy achievement for Obama, who is set to end his presidency in less than two years, as well as for Castro, who is 83 and who has hinted at retiring in two years.
However, Rosa Maria Paya, a prominent Cuban dissident, told Al Jazeera that Obama had falled short in his support for "democracy advocates in Cuba".
"Obama has responded to Castro's demands, on the embargo and on wanting to take Cuba off the terrorist sponsor  list, very concrete things, but he is not so clear about the demands of the Cuban people," she said.
"His words words were symbolic, but I wanted to hear concrete demands, such as  stopping repression of opponents of the regime."

The secret of happiness? Accept being unhappy----Tim Lott

 Tim Lott

Disappointment, fear and loss are as much a part of life as achievement, hope and joy. But this indeterminate state no longer seems to be socially acceptable

I am going to come out of the closet, and make a shocking, even shameful, admission. I am not a happy person. In fact I am the sort of chap who complete strangers come up to in the street and advise to cheer up, since it might never happen. I am not, I should emphasise, an unhappy person either. I love to laugh, and some of my novels have been admired as pretty good comedies. I think I am pretty much like most people, with moods that shift and transform. Sometimes I am happy, sometimes sad, most of the time I am pretty much neutral, with my mind elsewhere. Disappointment, fear and loss are as much a part of my life as achievement, hope and joy. It is all of a piece.
However, this indeterminate state no longer seems to be socially acceptable. It is required of me, both implicitly and explicitly, that I remain in a state of continual near-explosion — passionate about this, excited about that, looking forward to something else. If not, I am antisocial, a grumpy old man. Worst of all I am a failure, because if I was a success, I would be happy.
Happiness, we are confidently assured, is the objective of life and it is something we “get” by working hard, shopping, playing and exercising, giving to charitable causes and taking part in the drama of late capitalism. Because capitalism loves the goal of happiness — since it can offer endless products that will promise it. When they fail to do so, it can offer alternative products which make an identical promise. And so on. I am not an advocate for misery — far from it. Happiness is good for you and for those around you. But you mustn’t be ashamed if you can’t.
I wish I were happy all the time — I just don’t think it’s a very realistic possibility. The daily parade of disaster on the news is sobering enough. The fact of my own mortality is a downer. Old age and sickness frighten me. The difficulties of human communication produce as much isolation as connection. The corruption and venality of the powerful are daily reminders of injustice. It’s no coincidence that all the greatest works of human drama —from Elektra to Hamlet to A View from the Bridge — are tragedies.
We can, it is suggested, find happiness through good works. This is also an ideology. I am as likely to be disappointed by “doing the right thing” as I am elevated. That’s why it’s so hard to do. The secret truth is that being unselfish can leave you just as empty as being selfish. Not that I’m advocating selfishness — just pointing out that if “goodness” were easy, it wouldn’t be particularly admirable. It would simply be a form of hedonism.
Lifting the weight of denial
I am sincerely glad that we have all cheered up since the 1970s and 1980s. But there’s a danger that all this positivity is becoming counterproductive. The UN now has an International Happiness Day when we are all instructed to be happy. If I wasn’t grumpy before, I was after this particular injunction, a classic case of happiness bullying. There is plenty of evidence that cheerfulness is not fuelling the zeitgeist quite as much as we suppose. Depressive illness is at record levels. Children are stressed like never before, as are teachers. Suicide is the main cause of death for men under 35.
There is plenty of unhappiness. Why dwell on it? There’s no need, I agree. But we shouldn’t refuse to acknowledge it. TV and the Internet disseminate a form of propaganda by insisting on and showcasing shiny, creative, fulfilling lives. It makes me feel inadequate because my life, although creative, and fulfilling and quite well paid, does not send me into paroxysms of ecstasy every day. It is just life, sometimes good, sometimes bad, often a confusing mixture of both.
I would not go so far as Slavoj Žižek who, when asked what he found most depressing, answered “the happiness of stupid people”. But I know what he meant. Anyone intelligent and sensitive and thoughtful cannot look at the world and themselves without some inkling that everything, although strange and remarkable, is not always awesome. If we could acknowledge it, the weight of denial could be lifted. And you know what? We’d all be a lot happier for it. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

U.S and its allies failed to target the epicentres of jihad -- Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

 The rise of Islamic State- ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution: Patrick Cockburn; LeftWord Books, 2254/2A Shadi Khampur, New Ranjit Nagar, New Delhi-110008. Rs. 250.

The Arabs opposed the Ottomans and sided with the allied powers in the First World War in the hope of getting the right to self determination.

Veteran foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn (65), who has reported from the Middle East since 1979, has three full-length books on Iraq already to his credit. This monograph on the rise of the ultra-jihadist Islamic State builds on his reportage for The Independent and long-form writing for the London Review of Books.
It attributes the birth of IS to the belligerence shown by the West following the 9/11 attacks. It makes clear that it was not 9/11 but the reaction of U.S and its allies to the attacks that made al-Qaeda’s rise and expansion inevitable, giving birth to other splinter groups, including the most recent and the most violent one. Cockburn says that if the West’s war on terror has been a spectacular failure, it is because of its failure to target the epicentres of jihad -- Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Two recent developments that Cockburn says provided fertile breeding ground for the IS are: marginalisation of the Sunnis in Iraq; and the hijacking of the Syrian uprising by jihadists. In both cases, Wahhabi Islam, a puritanical form patronised and exported by the House of Saud, provided the ideological fuel.
It is clear from the pessimism expressed by the book about the future of the region that questions behind the rise of the groups like IS need to go beyond those merely focused on security and stability: they need to take into account colonial ambitions that were instrumental in creation of the nations as such. For, isn’t the rise of non-state actors in the Middle East a product of the way the states were organised there 100 years ago?
The Arabs opposed the Ottomans and sided with the allied powers in the First World War in the hope of getting the right to self determination. However, they were used as strategic bargaining chips by the victors. The application of Sykes-Picot line to divide the region into French and the British spheres of influence was matched in its mendacity only by the Treaty of Versailles signed a few years later. The people of the region were left betrayed.
As written by T.E. Lawrence -- Lawrence of Arabia -- and quoted by Robert Fisk in The Great War For Civilisation, the Arabs did not risk their lives in battle simply to “change masters.” They wanted independence of their own.
Their experiments with puppet administrations started in 1922 when Britain installed King Feisal — neither an Iraqi nor a Shia — in Shia-majority Iraq. Robert Fisk calls this “our first betrayal of the Shias of Iraq.” There were more betrayals in store, resulting in societies, with a glorious record of coexistence, getting split further along sectarian lines. Cockburn foresees balkanisation of the region into Shia, Sunni and Kurdish enclaves where the ‘other’ is targeted. Here, he fears we may see a repeat of the carnage that accompanied India’s partition. However, military interventions in the form of air strikes continue, in the hope of defeating the enemy. Assuming that IS can be defeated by military means, a question that arises is: What could be done to prevent the future emergence of such groups? This book doesn’t provide many answers but the corpus of literature on the region does.
The West needs to attempt a genuine reconciliation with its erstwhile colonies and present-day clients. The next year will mark a century since the Sykes-Picot pact was signed. Serious reflection on what went wrong with the re-organisation of the states in the region needs to take place. This has to involve acceptance of historical blame.
The superpowers need to learn from history that Iraq and Syria are progenies of civilisations which a rich culture of tolerance and state building. The Mesopotamian civilisation, as fabulously documented by Jared Diamond in the rambunctious read, Guns, Germs and Steel, had a centralised state as early as 3500 BC.
The rich Mediterranean climate of Tigris and Euphrates valleys and the emergence of writing and irrigation technologies led to the formation of complex political organisations. What explains the irony that, in a region which has inherited such a sophisticated system of state building, the most popular party is a non-state actor?
The prime reason is the encumbrances thrown in the path of nationalist movements, first by colonial powers like Ottoman Turkey and Britain and later by post-colonial ones like U.S. and Soviet Union, which prevented the rise of modern institutions. Alas, U.S. and its allies show collective amnesia when it comes to history. The IS has numerous enemies but, as Cockburn says, they are disunited and have varying ideologies. IS is neither Islamic nor a state but to “degrade and ultimately destroy” it, as President Barack Obama put it, the West has to allow the organic evolution of genuine states, where Islam and democracy can both be allowed to play a role and where national aspirations, not external interests, provide the binding force.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

US will remove Cuba 'terror' status

Barack Obama, the US president, has signalled he will soon remove Cuba from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, boosting hopes for improved ties as he prepares for what's billed as an historic encounter with Raul Castro, his Cuban counterpart.
Obama's attendance at Friday's Summit of the Americas in Panama comes amid a new diplomatic outreach to Cuba, which has not attended the regional conclave since 1994.
For the first time, the US did not object to Castro attending.
Hours before his arrival in Panama, Obama said the US State Department had finished its review of Cuba's presence on the list, a major stumbling block for efforts to mend US-Cuba ties.
Ben Cardin, a US senator and top Democrat on the Senate's foreign relations panel, confirmed that the agency had recommended removing Cuba from the list, all but ensuring action by the president within days.
The highly anticipated interaction with Castro will test the power of personal diplomacy as the two leaders attempt to move past the issues that have interfered with their attempt to relaunch diplomatic relations.
The US has long since stopped accusing Cuba of supporting terrorism, and Obama has hinted at his willingness to take Cuba off the list ever since he and Castro announced a thaw in relations in December.
Yet Obama has stopped short of the formal decision amid indications that the White House was reluctant to grant Cuba's request until other issues, such as restrictions on US diplomats in Havana, were resolved.
Cuba is one of just four countries still on the US list of countries accused of repeatedly supporting global terrorism. The others are Iran, Sudan and Syria.
"Victim of US aggression"
However, Latin American policy analyst Juan Carlos Hidalgo told Al Jazeera that negoations between the US and Cuba had been held in secret "so we don't know what's going to happen".
"It's been a riling point for Cuba for over half a century, and it has been presenting itself as a victim of US aggression but now, all of a sudden the US wants to be friends with you (Cuba)," Hidalgo said.
"If you look at statements from Castro over the past months, it looks like he is trying to raise the price tag by asking the US to return Guantanamo Bay or lift the sanctions in return for closer ties."
In January, Castro said that Cuba would not improve relations with the US unless it returned the controversial naval base and military prison to Cuba and lifted the five decades-old sanctions.
Al Jazeera's diplomatic editor James Bays, reporting from Panama, said this year's summit was historic because all of the countries in the Americas were present for the first time.
"The Summit of the Americas is held every two years and in some ways this year's is a coming of age," Bays said.
"A lot of attention will be on the relationship on those two countries."
Bays said a cloud on the horizon at the summit was Obama's issuing an executive order for sanctions against Venezuelan officials a month ago.
Bays said the order could be viewed by some countries as "a clumsy move"
Source Al Jazeera

Saudi-led air strikes failed to stop Houthis capture Ataq city


Houthi fighters, backed by supporters of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have entered the provincial capital of the Shabwa province in eastern Yemen, despite intense Saudi-led air strikes against the group.
Residents said local tribal chiefs and security officials facilitated the entry of the Houthi forces to the city of Ataq on Thursday, where they took control of the offices of the local government and security forces compounds.
It was the first time that the Houthis and their allies had entered the city, bringing them closer to the country's most prized economic asset, the Belhaf natural gas facility and export terminal, on the Arabian Sea about 160 km to the southeast.
A great nation like Yemen will not submit to bombing. Come, let us all think about ending war. Let us think about a ceasefire...Let us prepare to bring Yemenis to the negotiating table.
Hassan Rouhani, Iranian president
Saudi Arabia, backed by four Gulf Arab states and other regional Arab allies, has mounted two weeks of air strikes against the Houthis, who have since pushed south towards Aden, the stronghold of Saudi-backed Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The air campaign failed to stop the Houthis and soldiers loyal to Saleh entering central Aden, but the coalition says it has cut Houthi supply lines, destroyed weapons depots and pushed them back in some southern provinces around Aden.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says at least 643 people have died and more than 2,200 have been injured in the conflict so far.
Tens of thousands of families have also been displaced and the WHO has warned that the situation in the Arabian Peninsula nation is critical.
In a speech on Thursday in Tehran, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani called for an end to the air strikes in Yemen, saying countries in the region should work towards a political solution.
"A great nation like Yemen will not submit to bombing. Come, let us all think about ending war. Let us think about a ceasefire...Let us prepare to bring Yemenis to the negotiating table," he said.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies accuse Iran of arming the Houthi fighters but Iran denies the allegations.
Al-Qaeda continues its advance
Earlier in the day, residents of al-Siddah district in central Yemen said they woke to find al-Qaeda flags flying over local government offices, Reuters news agency reported.
They said a group of al-Qaeda gunmen led by a local commander known as Ma'mour al-Hakem, took over the district at night. Residents said the Houthis, who had been in control of the town for more than two months, retreated without a fight.
The United States defence secretary has said that the escalated conflict has provided al-Qaeda with an "opportunity" to gain new territory in Yemen. This is despite confirmation from the US that it is expediting advanced arms shipments to Saudi Arabia.
Against this backdrop of escalating tensions, the first medical supplies have started arriving in Aden: the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said they have made it to some of the city's hospitals.
It said a boat carrying 2.5 tonnes of medicine had docked in Aden, the first shipment the group has delivered to the city since the fighting there escalated.
For its part, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that a surgical team also arrived by boat on Wednesday in Aden.
"It's nearly catastrophic," Marie Claire Feghali, ICRC's spokesperson in Yemen, told Reuters news agency.
"Shops are closed, so people cannot get food, they cannot get water. There are still dead bodies in the street. Hospitals are extremely exhausted."
Source Al jazeera

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Criticism on My Choice Video ---No, Deepika Padukone didn’t 'get it wrong'

 Many of the critiques target Deepika, reducing collective responsibility to an individual.

If the video is accused of being shallow, are the criticisms of it particularly profound?

Several of the criticisms levelled against the Vogue Empower campaign featuring Deepika Padukone are oblivious to the extent of hypocrisy inherent in them. In the digital space, where outrage and sensationalism draw in an unprecedented surge of readership and views, this hardly comes as a surprise. Many of the headlines, to begin with, targeted the popular female actor, reducing collective responsibility to an individual.
‘Deepika Padukone’s got it wrong’, a headline said. ‘Deepika Padukone’s powerful video: we beg to differ,’ was a popular daily’s slightly better, but hardly more reassuring a choice of title. And what is a rejoinder without an open letter? ‘Dear Deepika, Vogue’... one went. Perhaps Padukone’s name will bring in clicks? If the video lacked substance, and fixated on the repeated use of the word ‘choice,’ how are these criticisms a foil?
A consistent feminist argument was that the video focused on privileged women. That it was elitist. What they failed to see, however, is if the choices that even privileged women make are easy; if they are devoid of taboo or judgment. And the core message hardly loses relevance: respect.
Everybody has their own version of freedom and feminism, and it needs to be said, in different ways, many times, perhaps in cliches, and in unique ways. Feminism isn’t a one-size-fit-all.
The message that many came away with instead was: articulating the choice to have sex outside marriage is a promotion of adultery. Criticism has poured in for the shampoo ad-like hi-def video quality; the clichéd use of the female form and for semantics. Saying that one needs to have the freedom to choose to love a man or woman is offensive because one doesn’t have a choice in sexual identity. It is natural.
If the video is accused of being shallow, is this criticism particularly profound?
Feminism isn’t about establishing a hierarchy of gender-related problems. It is the continuous experience of a lack, and the lack has an infinite range to it; from the purely economic to the damagingly psychological.
What it means to be empowered is hardly static; it shifts, changes, is variable with circumstance. How can a single video, and an ad/marketing campaign at that, possibly encompass the many meanings of empowerment? Why is there this expectation, that every popular/mainstream initiative that attempts anything around gender be a comprehensive, near-academic treatise? While doing a sociological analysis of this ad campaign, one article said that the campaign doesn’t question the “structures that allow men to dominate our society. Emphasis on choice does nothing to dislodge male privilege.”
If this is the language of “educated criticism,” why is there an issue with the fact that videos like these are winning more brownie points than they apparently deserve. It is unfair to expect that a politics, expressed in a language suited to some, will resonate with everyone. And when a form of expression - as this video - however poor according to some, does resonate, there needs to be acknowledgement and contemplation as to why it found the acceptance it did.
Finally, it can’t be denied that labels such as Vogue, and industries like Bollywood have a dark history of objectifying women and being the contexts for harmful insecurities. But, if this video is an indication of how brands and industries have to evolve in order to sync with popular sentiment in the country, let this be seen as an attempt. It is a small break with their guilty histories. 
Source The Hindu

Those predictions in the name of "Science" are more dangerous than astrology


 B.M. Hegde
Angelina Jolie had her ovaries removed recently, to counter a possible 50 per cent chance of getting cancer in that part of her body. A few years ago she had had her breasts removed for the same reason. Sooner than later she may have more of her organs removed, and possibly replaced by artificial ones!
Not surprising if you believe these doctors, who could be called cancerologists. There is a 50 per cent chance of any human being contracting any disease. Does that warrant getting our organs removed to remain safe from cancer? If it is that easy, a lot more people will be coughing up money to get their organs removed. I remember my student-days when we used to advise parents to have their children’s tonsils, even appendix, removed lest they cause problems. Now we think that was foolish. Science has advanced by leaps and bounds.
With the latest science many conclusions could be drawn that seem to be true today.
The future is not there. It is yet to be born. The past is dead. The human body is not a machine put together by joining organs. It is a bundle of energy and a colony of 129 trillion human cells, each of which can have an independent existence in isolation. We also are home to ten times that number of germ cells at a ratio of 1:10. The human body works as one whole and not in bits and pieces.
Healing has to be Whole Person Healing (WPH). This is now scientifically accepted by the IOM in the U.S., thanks to Professor Rustum Roy’s efforts. Organs cannot be treated in isolation. In a dynamic system, prediction is impossible unless we know the total initial state of the organism. Writing in the British Medical Journal, Professor W.J. Firth, the physicist, shows how foolish it is for doctors to predict the unpredictable future of their patients. (BMJ 1991; 303: 1565)
Pray, how could anyone advise a patient to have her organs removed for fear of getting cancer there with 50:50 chances? That said, I must hasten to add that this is very sensible medical business. Cancer is a $1.72-trillion industry and growing by leaps and bounds.
The drugs are expensive and are not being tested properly. We have been able to conquer cancer. Money seems to be the only driving force in this business.
Scientists and rationalists condemn our poor astrologers for seeking to predict human future. I agree with them there. But the same people do not condemn this kind of quackery? Why are there such double standards? In fact, the latter is more dangerous as it is done in the name of “Science”.
What is science? I was sure Dolly would die a premature death due to old age diseases as she was created from her mother’s cell.
That happened. Eric Drexler, a young PhD from MIT, started a company, called, if I remember right, Furutistic Inc. He claimed to produce custom-built human beings without mother and father (self-replicating nanobots). He collected billions of dollars from venture capitalists.
His own teacher, the Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley, had to warn the world this is an impossibility. The company closed down, declaring Chapter 11! This is how one makes money through science.
All that is fine with our thinkers, but they are allergic to astrologers. Weather predictions do not come true correctly. Edward Lorenz then had a new hypothesis of the “Butterfly Effect”. In the human body which is non-linear and holistic things happen due to butterfly effect every minute. No one, not even the best scientist, can predict the human future using the present science.
Poor Angelina Jolie, she has been taken for a ride. At this rate what will be left of her body? I wonder how this business thrives in today’s world where the media should keep a watch. On the contrary, the media are helping them by advertising their work. Look at the news of Angelina’s ovaries. They make headline news all over the world. How her removed ovaries are making so much sense to the lay reader?
(Professor Hegde is a Padma Bhushan Awardee 2010, a cardiologist and former Vice-Chancellor of Manipal University. )
Source -The Hindu 

DEA 'Sex Scandal' is Not About Sex - It's About Corruption and Impunity in the War on Drugs

Recent revelations that DEA agents attended "sex parties" hosted by the very drug traffickers they were supposed to be fighting fell like a bombshell.
Despite the shocking headlines, though, this scandal isn't really about sex -- and it's much bigger than the DEA. At its core, this sordid tale is about the futility and corruption of prohibition -- told through the lens of a rogue agency that represents everything wrong with the war on drugs.
According to a Justice Department report, several DEA agents (some with top secret clearances) allegedly participated in multiple orgies with hired sex workers "funded by the local drug cartels." Some also received money, gifts and weapons from these traffickers. The parties occurred at the agents' "government-leased quarters", where laptops and other equipment were accessible -- raising "the possibility that DEA equipment and information also may have been compromised as a result of the agents' conduct."
This story made national news because it's the DEA. But drug traffickers dishing out favors to local, state and federal law enforcement happens every day, both inside and outside of the U.S.
Moreover, the DEA wasn't the only federal agency with personnel recently implicated in drug war-related crimes in Colombia. Though less widely reported, a much more serious allegation emerged that U.S. soldiers and military contractors sexually abused at least 54 women and girls between 2003 and 2007 while deployed as part of Plan Colombia -- the nearly $10-billion U.S. drug war military aid package.
Not one of the perpetrators has faced justice. Committed during drug war operations, these heinous acts should be treated as war crimes.
These are just the latest horrors that the U.S. drug war has unleashed on Latin America -- with the DEA often at the center. In 2012, for example, DEA agents participated in a raid in Honduras that left four innocent people murdered, including a teenager and two pregnant women.
For years the agency has been spying on governments in the region, often for political purposes not related to drugs -- prompting Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador to kick the DEA out of their countries. Latin American counties are increasingly rejecting drug prohibition, and each fresh episode of war crimes and human rights abuses strikes a major blow to the U.S.'s failed global drug policy.
Then there's the DEA's long history of heavy-handed and shady actions at home: its rejection of science and obstruction of research; its promotion of militarization; its no-knock raids and airline passenger searches; its use of NSA data to spy on U.S. residents and to systematically fabricate evidence; its dehumanizing detention practices; its widespread and controversial reliance on confidential informants; and its role in creating and maintaining a system of mass incarceration.
Just days after the Colombia scandal broke, news surfaced that a DEA and Secret Service agent stole or extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bitcoins while investigating the Silk Road online drug market.
DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart herself has been at the center of several scandals, including the House of Death scandal in which the DEA appears to have turned a blind eye to torture and murder in Ciudad Juarez, and the Andrew Chambers scandal, in which the DEA rehired a confidential informant with a history of lying.
All told, the picture that emerges is an out-of-control agency, run amok, literally in bed with organized crime, a perfect symbol for the corruption and impunity inherent in the war on drugs.
The DEA must immediately be reined in and held accountable -- a small but crucial step in ending the disastrous drug war at home and abroad.
Daniel Robelo is the research coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance.
This post originally ran on the Drug Policy Alliance blog

The United States is supplying intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition now steps up arms for Saudi campaign in Yemen

 Fierce fighting between militias loyal to Hadi and and the Houthis has been raging in Aden for days [Reuters]

The United States is supplying intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition bombing rebel positions in Yemen and will expedite arms supplies to the alliance, Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken has said.

Blinken told reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia was sending a "strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force".

"As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation centre," Blinken said. 

At the Pentagon in Washington, Colonel Steve Warren, spokesperson, said the US was looking to deliver munitions to its allies, including by accelerating pre-existing orders.
"It's a combination of pre-existing orders made by our partner nations and some new requirements as they expend munitions," Warren said, asked about Blinken's remarks.

The Houthi rebels swept into the Yemeni capital Sanaa in September and have since tried to expand their control across the country. In February, they placed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi under house arrest before he fled to his power base in the southern city of Aden and then to Saudi Arabia. 
Yemen's humanitarian crisis worsens as aid delayed.
Blinken's comments came hours after the International Committee of the Red Cross flew medical personnel for the first time into Yemen amid delays that have worsened the humanitarian situation in Aden.

Fierce fighting between militias loyal to Hadi and and the Houthis has been raging in the port city for days.
Russia has presented a draft resolution at the UN Security Council seeking "humanitarian pauses" in the air strikes against the rebels.
'Catastrophic' situation 
The Red Cross warned on Tuesday of a "catastrophic" situation in Aden, as the rebels and their allies made a new push on a port in the central Mualla district of the city but were forced back by Hadi loyalists, witnesses said.
Naval forces of the Saudi-led coalition, which launched air strikes on March 26 in support of Hadi's beleaguered government, shelled rebel positions across the city, witnesses added.
Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the UN, Abdullah al-Mouallimi told Al Jazeera that the Houthis were responsible for civilian casualties.
"We have a situation where Houti militia are operating from heavily populated areas...most of the casualties that we know are happening in civilian areas that are being shelled by the Houthis and their allies. As far as we are concerned we are doing everything possible to make sure medical supplies are being delivered," he said
More than a 100,000 people have fled their homes after the Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes in Yemen, according to UNICEF, the UN agency responsible for children welfare.
A spokesman from the agency, Rajat Madhok, told Al Jazeera that most of those who have been displaced are women and children.
"Most displacements have taken place from and within al-Dhale, Abyan, Amran, Saada, Hajja. The displaced persons are mostly being hosted with relatives," Madhok said.
In a statement published on Tuesday, UNICEF said 74 children caught up in fighting had been killed and another 44 maimed since March 26.
"These are conservative figures and UNICEF believes that the total number of children killed is much higher," the statement read.
The agency's Yemen representative, Julien Harneis, said children were paying an "intolerable" price, and said more needed to be done to protect them.
"These children should be immediately afforded special respect and protection by all parties to the conflict, in line with international humanitarian law," Harneis said.
Source Al jazeera

Perception and performance of BJP

In the last one year the Bharatiya Janata Party has experienced both exciting highs and depressing lows. From being seen as a party that was pro-growth and pro-reforms, the BJP is now struggling to fight off the perception that it is anti-poor and anti-farmer. The dividing line was always thin, and now it has definitively been crossed. After the spectacular victory in the Lok Sabha election in May last, the party did extremely well in Assembly elections that followed in 2014. But it tripped in the Delhi election and is now struggling to contain rising opposition to the changes it has proposed in the Land Bill. The national executive meeting of the party in Bengaluru was thus an opportunity to reassess its own performance in government and identify the reasons for both its successes and failures. Unmistakably, the honeymoon period for the Narendra Modi government is well and truly over: new promises are not enough to retain support when old ones have not been kept. The challenge for Prime Minister Modi and BJP president Amit Shah was to devise a strategy to retain the support of an increasingly impatient core group of the party with the Hindutva cultural nationalist project as the agenda, and to live up to the expectations of the new converts who were hoping the government would deliver on the promise of jobs and growth and better living standards.
Between the Lok Sabha victory and the Delhi loss, the BJP tied up with the Peoples Democratic Party in J&K, agreeing to status quos and compromises on issues such as Article 370 that have alienated its supporters in the rest of the country. Also, on several occasions Mr. Modi and his senior Ministers had to intervene to rein in some of the fringe elements and junior Ministers who were indulging in hate speech and communally divisive propaganda. All these did not go down very well with the core Hindutva elements in the party and the government, who were hoping to have a free run as the BJP had a majority on its own. And, while the government intended the changes to the Land Bill as pro-business measures, these were viewed as efforts to marginalise the rural poor and the small farmer. The national executive was thus focussed on correcting the perceptions through closer coordination between the party and the government. Party forums are important sources of feedback and assessment for any government. But like the government, the BJP too seems to have lost touch with the people on some crucial issues. The national executive seems to have identified the problem. The solution, however, does not lie in a propaganda blitzkrieg but in performance. 
The Hindu Editorial 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

UN: Yemen Air strikes displaced new 100,000 peoples.


More than a 100,000 people have fled their homes after Saudi-led coalition air strikes began in Yemen, according to UNICEF.
A spokeman from the UN agency, Rajat Madhok, told Al Jazeera that most of those who have been displaced are women and children.
"Most displacements have taken place from and within al-Dhale, Abyan, Amran, Saada, Hajja. The displaced persons are mostly being hosted with relatives," Madhok said.
In a statement published on Tuesday, UNICEF, the UN agency that provides humanitarian assistance to children and mothers, said 74 children caught up in fighting had been killed and another 44 maimed since March 26.
"These are conservative figures and UNICEF believes that the total number of children killed is much higher," the statement read.
The agency's Yemen representative, Julien Harneis, said children were paying an "intolerable" price, and said more needed to be done to protect them.
"These children should be immediately afforded special respect and protection by all parties to the conflict, in line with international humanitarian law,” Harneis said.
Aden clashes
The comments came as Houthi rebels and forces backing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi engaged in fierce clashes in the country's south, reportedly leaving more than 140 people dead in 24 hours on Monday.
Citing unnamed officials, the AFP news agency reported that 17 civilians were among those killed.
The clashes happened in Aden, a power base for Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia, as the fighters from the Zaydi Shia sect, expanded their control across the country.
Relief workers have warned of a dire situation in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state, where a Saudi-led coalition is waging an air war on the Iran-backed rebels.  
The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said that one passenger plane carrying staff was able to land in Sanaa on Monday, but that the organisation has not yet been able to find a cargo plane operator to fly supplies into the country.
Sitara Jabeen, the ICRC's spokesperson, told Al Jazeera that the humanitarian situation was worsening.

"The situation in Yemen remains extremely critical. The conflict ... has intensified, especially in Aden. We are still trying to find a cargo plane that can carry our supplies to Sanaa," said Jabeen, speaking from the Yemeni capital.

The Saudi-led coalition has bombed Houthi positions since March 26 and has dropped weapons to Hadi loyalists, but the rebels continue to put up resistance and have said they will accept peace talks only if the aerial attacks stop.
The Houthis swept into Sanaa in September and put Hadi under house arrest before he fled to Aden and then to Saudi Arabia. Backed by militias loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, they control large swaths of Yemen, which is also grappling with al-Qaeda.
Al Jazeera

Monday, April 6, 2015

There is a larger question of NPA of Rs 2.60 lakh crore. Who has taken the money. Why Government is not publishing their names", CPI National Secretary D Raja

Chennai, Apr 5 : CPI today asked the Centre why it was not publishing the names of corporates who have Rs 2.60 crores lying in their bank accounts as non-performing assets (NPA).
"Blackmoney promise was given. But nothing has been done so far. But, there is a larger question of NPA of Rs 2.60 lakh crore. Who has taken the money. Why Government is not publishing their names", CPI National Secretary D Raja said during a discussion on Union Budget, organised by VIT University, here.
Terming the budget as a "failure" in many aspects, Raja said "this budget really protects the interest of Corporate houses. It does not protect the interest of young people. Time has come to discuss fiscal federalism comprehensively", he said.
CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury said the proposed land bill was not in the interests of the country and farmers.
BJP had supported the earlier Land Bill and Left parties also wanted to make some improvements in it. But, now the saffron party is coming with a new Land Bill. When Left parties wanted some clarification in the Bill, it was defeated in the Parliament, he said.
DMK Rajya Sabha MP 'Tiruchi' Siva flayed the Centre for not allocating sufficient funds to departments and said the budget has left the common man "disappointed".
"It is a big disappointment for the common man. In specific, for some of the departments like health, education, the allocation of funds has come down," he said.
Opposing the points putforth by the political leaders, BJP Tamil Nadu unit President Tamizhisai Sounderrajan said amid the discussion in parliament, a senior Opposition leader of the Congress party was missing, she said without naming Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi.
On criticism that the budget was "pro-orporates and not pro-poor", she referred the Jan Dhan scheme and Swachh Bharat scheme introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Is Jan Dhan scheme and Swachch Bharat schemes are for Corporates? five lakh toilets are to be built. Is this for Corporates? I am totally denying the point raised here", she said.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said that they are ready to face consequences on Land Bill


Hardening its stance, the Centre on Sunday indicated that it would not allow further amendments to the controversial Land Bill and asserted that it is ready to face the "consequences" even as it acknowledged that Rajya Sabha is a "stumbling block in our way."
"Government has made the needed amendments. If there are well-meaning suggestions, let it come. Then we will consider it," Parliamentary Affairs and Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu told, when asked if the government is ready for more amendments.
Earlier, speaking to reporters, Naidu did not buy the argument that there is a deadlock on the Bill as the Opposition is firm on opposing it.
"There is no deadlock. Lock has been opened. We did not have numbers (in Rajya Sabha), but the Coal Bill has been passed, Mines and Minerals Bill (MMDR) has been passed in the
same Rajya Sabha, let's see.
"After the nine amendments moved by the government in the Lok Sabha (on the Land Bill), there is nothing, nothing objectionable. We did not do anything unilaterally. We have done extensive consultations," the minister said.
"They (the Congress and Opposition parties which are against the Land Bill) don't want growth. They don't want good name to the government. They want development holiday to be
extended. We are not ready. We want to do something. We are ready to face the consequences (on the Land Bill)", he said. Expressing confidence that the people "will be with us,"
Naidu said the government would again bring the Bill to Lok Sabha.
"I am confident, with the mood of the people, the members of Parliament will support the Bill in both Houses and it will be passed. That's my confidence," he said.
"Let there be a constructive debate when Parliament meets. When we discuss, if there are meaningful suggestions, government has declared that we are open for discussion," he said.
Naidu said the NDA government is eager to deliver on the promises made to people, "but the fact is we do not have majority in Rajya Sabha. It's a stumbling block in our way.
Sometimes, legislative measures and nation's development have been blocked in Parliament."
But the Minister asserted that the government is determined to go ahead with its agenda of development and good governance.
He said under the NDA government led by Narendra Modi, the days of scams and scandals are over.
"In the last ten months, we could not hear a single scam or scandal," he said.  Naidu said "leadership is back, investors are looking at India. Ease of doing business is back."
The party has decided to counter on a massive scale across the country from May the "disinformation campaign" unleashed against the Modi government by the Opposition, he said.
"We will lay bare before the nation the falsehood that is sought to be spread by our opponents," he said

The CJI said the judiciary is open to “suggestions, change and dialogue” to evolve administration of justice.

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the joint conference of Chief Justices of High Courts and Chief Ministers in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo: Ramesh Sharma

Modi: Our justice delivery system caught up in morass of archaic laws

Noting that judiciary should attain perfection as it grows more powerful, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the need for judges to evolve an in-built mechanism of self-correction to prevent rot from within.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the Chief Justices and Chief Ministers Conference in Delhi on Sunday, Mr. Modi said the common man’s expectation from the judiciary is huge.
Even the slightest wound to judiciary in the form of corruption would endanger the image of the entire nation, Mr. Modi said.
Mr. Modi said judiciary, as an institution, enjoys so much credibility that even a man punished thinks it is impossible that the judiciary could go wrong.
He said the political classes are under scrutiny through multiple means like the Election Commission, the Right to Information Act and now the Lokpal even as the judiciary is not, owing to the public confidence and credibility it enjoys.
However, this credibility is all the more the reason for judiciary to take the initiative to independently devise an “inherent method” of checks and transparency, he said.
“If the government commits a fault, we have you to correct us. So you cannot afford to be seen in the wrong,” Mr. Modi said.
Earlier, Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, in his speech, described the relationship between the judiciary and executive as that of siblings who hold each others’ hands and correct one another when needed. The CJI said the judiciary is open to “suggestions, change and dialogue” to evolve administration of justice.
As the CJI emphasised on government co-operation to improve court infrastructure, the Prime Minister expressed his unhappiness with the large number of tribunals in existence and the way they are eating into financial resources.
“Is there a need for so many tribunals? I want all seniors in the Supreme Court to contemplate if tribunals are actually helping in improving functioning of judiciary as a lot of budget goes waste in tribunals,” Mr. Modi pointed out.
The Prime Minister’s words came immediately after CJI Dattu, in his speech, sought autonomy to judiciary to “re-appropriate finances allocated to it” by the government.
The Chief Justice said that judges should be consulted for inputs before budgetary allocations are made to the judiciary.
The Prime Minister agreed with Chief Justice Dattu that judiciary cannot solve pendency alone and a co-ordinated effort is required.
Mr. Modi said pendency has been a constant refrain in joint conferences held in the past. He reminisced being a witness to threadbare discussions held in the earlier conferences. He pointed out that no solution has been arrived at so far. Instead, he drew attention to how poorly drafted laws and a morass of unnecessary and archaic laws have held up court proceedings, adding to pendency.
“Courts take years to interpret these poorly drafted laws. This is a reason for pendency. Again, our justice delivery system is caught up in a morass of unnecessary laws,” the Prime Minister said.
While Prime Minister Modi highlighted the need to sustain quality in the judiciary, Chief Justice Dattu pointed out that the best minds are hardly attracted to the judiciary. The CJI pointed out that the judge population ratio has dipped to 1:61,865.
“The stark reality is that the salary of a judge is somewhat that of a fresh graduate working in a law firm. I fear for the future,” the CJI said.
Union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda agreed the judicial system is under strain. 
The Hindu